This exam uses low-dose x-rays to make a picture of breast tissue. The picture is called a mammogram.

Most medical organizations in the United States and Canada advise regular screening. There are some differences among these groups about when to start and how often to have the screenings. The United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) advises that women aged 50 to 74 years old get the test every two years. Other organizations advise screening every year starting at age 40. Women who are at high risk for breast cancer may need to have the tests starting at an earlier age and more often. Talk to your doctor about what is best for you.

Possible Complications

Problems from the test are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Mammograms use low dose radiation and can cause brief pain in the breasts.

The test may not be advised if you are pregnant. If you are planning to have this test, your doctor will go over potential problems with you.



This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

a (Breast X-ray; Mammogram; X-ray of Breast Tissue)


American Cancer Society 

American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists 


Breast Cancer Society of Canada 

Radiology for Patients 


Mammograms. National Cancer Institute website. Available at: Updated December 7, 2016. Accessed July 24, 2018.

Mammography (breast imaging). Radiological Society of North America Radiology Info website. Available at: Accessed February 3, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2018.

Mammography for breast cancer screening. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:  . Updated September 20, 2017. Accessed July 24, 2018.

8/12/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance  : The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Practice bulletin no.122: Breast cancer screening. Obstet Gynecol. 2011;118(2 Pt 1):372-382. Reaffirmed 2014.